Light and Darkness

I love light. The brighter the environment the better. This likely explains the pleasure I take in walking outdoors. Rays of sun peeking down at me between tree branches fill me up. When I’m inside, I admit to turning on more lamps than the good deacon cares for to accommodate my need to brighten a room. I’ve done the same at my sisters’ and children’s homes when the lighting isn’t to my liking. When we built our own home, my love for light compelled me to tell our builder that I wanted “lots of windows”. Monday, July 11, was the first time in twenty-three years that I regretted that request.

Blustering wind and rain pelted every pane of glass around me with a mighty force that shook me from my bed. Since Mike was up north with our friend Matt, I was on my own. The slices of light that frame our blinds every morning were an ominous brownish gray that day. Relentless pounding almost frightened me away from the windows. Still, I abandoned common sense and slowly raised the blind to the west. I should have run for cover, but I couldn’t turn my eyes from the large white birch tree just inches away from me. It leaned over to touch the ground and then brushed the window as it stood upright. After watching the tree repeat this exercise three times, it occurred to me that I needed to get downstairs and perhaps to the basement. On my way, I opened the rest of the blinds and tried to assess the wind’s velocity. The bank of arbor vitae along the back of our yard swayed in unison with each gust. The trees out front bent to the east, not quite enough to snap their trunks. Foot-long twigs covered the lawn and driveway. As I watched our newspapers fly down the street, I decided it was best to let them go. I retreated to the family room to consider my options. It was then that the lights flickered several times. A few minutes later, an eerie silence surrounded me. The lights went out as the refrigerator and air conditioner stopped humming.

In the midst of the raging storm and darkness, I turned my eyes upward and asked our dear Lord to keep everyone safe. Then, as though God needed assistance, I asked Michael the Archangel to protect our homes and property as best he could. Then, as though the good archangel needed assistance, I asked my loved ones in the hereafter to offer any protection they could muster. Convinced that I’d placed us all and our property in the best of hands, I picked up the phone to call Mike. No dial tone… I gave thanks for having remembered to charge my cell phone overnight as I keyed in the number. After warning the good deacon to take care on the drive home, I settled into the chair next to the window. As I kept vigil in the darkness, I came to realize just how much light means to me… Light from the sun. Light from the array of fixtures that brighten our home. Light from Mike’s presence, especially when we have to knuckle down to solve a problem together. Light from above, especially when only God can shed just the right light to ease our troubles.

In today’s gospel (Matthew 13:44-52), Matthew tells us that Jesus is teaching through parables once again. Jesus tells the crowds, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it…” During that terrible storm and the difficult days that followed, Jesus may have added, “The kingdom of heaven is a like a lifeless light bulb that suddenly flickers and then burns brightly. Those who bask in its light dance with delight.” Or, Jesus might have said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a neighborhood without power where families pour out of their homes in a storm’s aftermath to be certain that everyone is safe. And when they find that all are well, they grill together and eat together and give thanks that only the electricity has been taken from them.”

Before the storm, I might have said that kingdom of God is like the most brilliant light that reveals every detail of the people and things that I love. After the storm, I say, “The kingdom of heaven is like the light of our community, the kindness that abounded among neighbors and spilled over onto strangers, the unexpected hand that helped those who thought they couldn’t make it another day. The kingdom of heaven is precious light restored, not by ComEd, but by God’s children who responded only as God’s children can.

©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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